“Watermelon contains dietary fiber for digestive health as well as potassium, a mineral that helps keep blood pressure capped,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor.
No wonder there's a whole month dedicated to this fruit next month - July is National Watermelon Month.
Did you know
It has more lycopene than raw tomatoes
In just one cup, watermelon has 1.5 times more than a large fresh tomato, 6 milligrams compared to 4 milligrams, according to the USDA. That matters because lycopene is thought to act as a super antioxidant, stopping free radicals from damaging your cells and messing with your immune system. Some research even suggests that lycopene, typically found in red fruits and vegetables, may help fight heart disease and several types of cancer. Pro tip: “To retain the most antioxidants in this delicious superfood, store your watermelon at room temperature before slicing,” Sass says.
The juice can relieve muscle soreness
A Spanish study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that drinking watermelon juice can actually be quite soothing after a grueling workout. Athletes who consumed a little more than 16 ounces an hour before exercise had less muscle soreness and a lower heart rate within a day.
That may be because watermelon contains a natural substance called citrulline that’s been tied to improved artery function and lower blood pressure. In fact, its ability to relax the blood vessels led Texas A&M University researchers to say watermelon has Viagra-like effects. But you’ll need to look beyond the pink flesh if you really want to load up on citrulline—it’s concentrated most in the rind. If that’s not your thing, you can always save it for pickling or preserving later, Sass says.
It’s a fruit AND a vegetable
Like most fruits, watermelon is the product of a seed-producing plant and has a signature sweet taste. But it can be traced back to the squash, pumpkin, and cucumber family known as Cucurbitacea. You can also eat the rind. The dual nature of watermelon makes it all edible, so there’s no excuse to leave any part behind.
It’s packed with water
This food has some serious hydration power. Watermelon is 91.5% water, according to the USDA. That’s a big deal seeing as how being dehydrated is bad for your health. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that women with even mild dehydration experienced headaches, poor concentration, fatigue, and worse moods. Dehydration also promotes muscle pain in patients experiencing fibromyalgia.
Improves Insulin Resistance
Insulin is a hormone in the blood that regulates blood sugar by helping it enter cells. PubMed Health explains that when the body does not respond properly to insulin blood sugar stays in the bloodstream. To counteract that occurrence, the body produces more insulin, and the excess insulin and sugar in the bloodstream have a negative effect on the kidneys and triglyceride levels. Watermelon's L-citrulline content raises L-arginine levels which helps reduce circulating blood sugar levels, excess fat and cholesterol levels in animal and human subjects, according to a study in the December 2007 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition."